Arts at TCI present and Kyo-Shin-An Arts
15th Anniversary Season
Kyo-Shin-An Arts and Arts at TCI present
Only concert this spring!
Chamber music for Japanese instruments and string quartet
Featuring the world premiere of "Tommy" a new work by James Nyoraku Schlefer plus music of Bohuslav Martinu and Marty Regan
Purchase tickets here
Yoko Reikano Kimura, Koto and Voice
Sumie Kaneko, Shamisen and Voice
James Nyoraku Schlefer, Shakuhachi
The Arianna String Quartet
Saturday, April 13, 7:30PM
Tenri Cultural Institute
43A W. 13th St., NYC
Tickets $25 in advance ($30 at the door)
Purchase tickets here
Tommy - a musical fantasy based on a true story is a musical interpretation of a real historical event. It brings together two of my worlds; that of a native New Yorker and of someone who has a deep interest in Japanese music and history. The true story goes like this . . .
Beginning in January 1860, a group of 77 samurai sailed 37 days across the Pacific as part of the first Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the United States. They came as ambassadors, to secure the Treaty of Kanagawa which was signed on March 31, 1854 as facilitated by Commodore Matthew Perry. After a stop in San Francisco, the group sailed on to Panama, crossed the isthmus by railroad, and sailed to Washington DC. Official business concluded, they stayed to sightsee and visited Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. It was a remarkable first encounter between two peoples and two cultures.
As the samurai's journey progressed, one of the translators-in-training - a very handsome young man with a witty and cheerful nature by the name of Tateishi Onojiro - became a celebrity. Nicknamed "Tommy," his fame preceded him and by the time the mission arrived in New York, he was avidly sought after for autographs, photographs, and bragging rights. This was especially the case with the women of New York, who pestered him relentlessly. (Noted in newspapers of the time as "the crinoline crush.") When not fending off the fairer sex, Tommy and the others attended an opera, a minstrel show and a parade with hundreds of marching bands. They visited Central Park, a school, a rich person's mansion, did a great deal of shopping, and were feted with a grand ball at the long-gone Metropolitan Hotel, where they were lodged.
Tommy's fame became so great that the prolific American composer Charles Grobe even composed the popular Tommy Polka in his honor. (Yes, I have included a musical quote in this piece.) The polka's lyrics pretty much summed up the local adulation: "Wives and maids by scores are flocking; Round that charming, little man; Known as Tommy, witty Tommy; from Japan."
Tommy's adventures inspired my composition. While not literal depictions, the movements are musical imaginings of his experiences and emotions. Tommy is represented musically with an idee fixe - a recurring melody that is heard at the opening of the piece and throughout the work. There are three vocal sections with poetic Japanese lyrics: preparing for the journey; being the object of relentless attention; looking forward to the familiarity of home.
In reading the many accounts of this history in the NYC newspapers of the time, one gets the impression that there was a significant amount of culture shock. My juxtaposition of Japanese instruments with string quartet highlights this reality. At times the music attempts to represent the homesickness that Tommy no doubt would have felt, using classic Japanese pentatonic scales and heterophonic textures, comingled with Western harmonies and homophonic textures. Overall, Tommy is my musical response to the complexities inherent in such a seminal cross-cultural exchange.
KYO-SHIN-AN ARTS: Kyo-Shin-An Arts brings Japanese instruments – specifically koto, shakuhachi and shamisen – to Western classical music by working with established chamber ensembles, orchestras and great individual performers to bridge two musical cultures. It introduces composers, players and audiences to the beauty and versatility of Japanese instruments and the virtuosity of the musicians who play them. Concerts feature a blend of KSA commissions, other World, American and NY premieres, traditional and contemporary music for Japanese instruments and Western repertoire. kyoshinan.org
ARTS AT TCI and KYO-SHIN-AN ARTS PRESENT: The excellent acoustics and intimate gallery setting of the Tenri Cultural Institute create a superb setting for listening to chamber music and offer audiences the rare opportunity to hear both traditional and contemporary music from two cultures in a setting similar to the music rooms of the courts and castles of both Europe and Japan. Over 300 years of chamber music tradition are presented throughout this series. Performances feature piano trios and string quartets from the great composers of Europe, music from Japan’s Edo period written for shamisen, koto and shakuhachi and contemporary music combining Western and Japanese instruments. artsat.tenri.org
A Series of Chamber Music Concerts from Two Classical Traditions, Europe and Japan